Friday, June 26, 2009

Creating Logo Based on Building

Dear Rich: I saw an article on your blog relating to permission to publish pictures of buildings. I'm currently designing a logo which is based on an iconic building in London. You probably need to know 'how much' it's based on the building, but what sort of ground am I on with regard to copyright? The short answer is that you may run into trademark problems (we're assuming your use for the logo is in the U.K,). Copyright is not likely to be an issue for you. The architecture for newer buildings is protected under U.K. copyright law (the life of the author/architect plus seventy years) but there is an exception  (see section 62) that permits graphic or photographic representations for publicly displayed architecture. The Dear Rich staff is more more concerned about your rights under trade mark law (it's two words in the U.K.) A logo is intended to establish an association with a product or service. If the building you are using is already associated with a commercial enterprise -- for example, the TransAmerica pyramid in foggy downtown San Francisco  -- then consumers may be confused by your use, or alternatively, a U.K. trade mark examiner, may reject your registration. A trade mark examiner may also reject the application if the use of the building implies royal patronage or if it is prohibited for statutory reasons. Since so much time and money is invested in a new logo (and particularly if you are creating the work for a client), it may be time to bring in the lawyers.